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42. Has the Disease Progressed?

Perhaps the most important part of your diagnosis is "staging" your cancer – which is a way to describe whether it has progressed to other organs from its primary site and, if so, the extent of that progression.

  • Questions...
  • A) Is my tumor small enough to be removed by surgery?
  • B) If my cancer involves a tumor, has it spread anywhere else?
  • C) Is there any way to "shrink" my tumor, if we cannot remove it surgically?
  • Practical Tips...
  • About 25% of those diagnosed with cancer qualify for surgery – a treatment usually limited to comparatively small tumors where the cancer has not metastasized. If your cancer is "operable," that is a very good sign.
  • One of the most important ways to describe someone’s cancer is with reference to "Staging." Simply stated, most cancers are classified as being Stage 1, 2, 3 or 4 – although sometimes it gets more refined (for example, a Stage 3a and 3b). Your oncologist almost certainly will describe what "stage" your cancer is, although staging also may require additional tests. If cancer is "Stage 1" that usually is good news – because it means the disease is very localized with a good chance the tumor can be removed by surgery. At the other end of the scale, is "Stage 4" cancer. That means the disease has spread to distant additional locations, and metastatic cancer is the most challenging to treat.
  • Thankfully, science has made great strides in using drugs (like chemo) to shrink and contain tumors. Sometimes the tumors get small enough that surgery becomes a viable option.